UPDATED: EA's Response to Ofqual Consultation on Proposed Changes to the Assessment of GCSEs, AS and A levels in 2021.

Posted by boo11 at Jul 22, 2020 12:45 PM |
The English Association’s Secondary Education Committee has submitted a response to the Ofqual consultation on proposed changes to the assessment of GCSEs, AS and A levels in 2021.

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Summary

The Office of Qualifications and Examinations Regulation (Ofqual), which regulates qualifications, examinations and assessments in England, made a call to teaching professionals as a means of providing support to schools and colleges to help reduce the impact on learning due to the disruption in education caused by the COVID -19 outbreak. This is also to ensure that exams and assessments to be carried out in the year 2021 are as fair as possible.

The consultation seeks views on our proposals to change the assessment requirements for some subjects in order to:

  • free up teaching time and, in some instances, reduce what needs to be taught; and
  • take account of any public health restrictions relating to coronavirus (COVID-19) that might be in place during the next academic year.

The consultation questions focus on the following areas:

  • adaptations to exams and assessments that could free up teaching time;
  • adaptations to exams and assessments to address obstacles that could be created by any public health safeguards;
  • sampling of subject content;
  • the use of more optional questions in exams;
  • changing the length of exams; and
  • changing the exam timetable.

 

Consultation response

Our response to the consultation is as follows:

Q1. To what extent do you agree or disagree that the 2021 exams should not include more optional questions than usual?

Disagree

Q2. Do you have any comments on the use of optional exam questions in the 2021 exams?

We think that even with the proposed changes to the timing of the 2021 exams series, candidates will still be disadvantaged as a result of lost time. One way of alleviating this would be to provide optional questions. We believe this could be done for our subjects (English and English Literature) without undermining the integrity of the subject.

Q3. To what extent do you agree or disagree that the number of exams taken for each subject in 2021 should be the same as usual?

Neither agree nor disagree

Q4. Do you have any comments on the number of exams taken for each subject in 2021?

No comments.

Q5. To what extent do you agree or disagree that the exams taken in 2021 should not be longer than usual?

Agree

Q6. Do you have any comments on the length of exams in 2021?

We do not see how longer exams could compensate candidates for lost teaching time.

Q7. To what extent do you agree or disagree that the GCSE timetable should start after half term in 2021 if results can still be released on 26 August 2021?

Agree

Q8. To what extent do you agree or disagree that the GCSE timetable should start after half term in 2021 even if this necessitates a delay in the release of results?

Strongly agree

Q9. What would be the advantages and disadvantages of delaying the start of GCSE exams in 2021?

The advantage of a delayed start to GCSE exams in 2021 is that it would allow schools compensate students for time lost to the pandemic. It would also provide candidates with an additional holiday week for preparation. However, this added time would be unlikely to make up for the teaching time already lost, and the further teaching time they may yet lose.
In broadly supporting a delayed start to GCSE exams, we think it is important that the publication of results is also put back so that the integrity of the marking system is preserved.

Q10. To what extent do you agree or disagree that the A level and AS timetable should start after half term in 2021 if results can still be released on 19 August 2021?

Agree

Q11. To what extent do you agree or disagree that the A level and AS timetable should start after half term in 2021 even if this necessitates a delay in the release of results?

Strongly agree

Q12. What would be the advantages and disadvantages of delaying the start of A level and AS exams in 2021?

We agree with these proposals for the same reasons as for GCSE and with the same reservations. We are aware that the university admissions system would most likely be adversely affected by a delay in the publication of A-level results, but we consider it more important to allow time for the accurate marking of A-level papers. Nobody gains from added teaching time if the exam marking process is compromised as a result.

Which subjects are you interested in?

Please select which subjects you are interested in

English language

English literature

English language and literature

 

English language

Q93. To what extent do you agree or disagree with the proposed assessment arrangements for GCSE English language in 2021?

Disagree

Q94. Do you have any comments on the proposed assessment arrangements for GCSE English language in 2021?

The Spoken Language assessment:
We do not feel the lightening of the administration load will have very much impact on teaching time. We also feel that the waiving of mandatory recording further signals the DfE’s lack of regard for speaking and listening skills, as well compromising the validity of the certificate (if there’s no need to provide proof of presentations, will some centres neglect this element of the course entirely?). We would prefer to see students compensated for the very considerable loss of face-to-face teaching time by a reduction in the content of the GCSE English language examinations.

Q95. To what extent do you agree or disagree with the proposed assessment arrangements for AS English language in 2021?

Agree

Q96. Do you have any comments on the proposed assessment arrangements for AS English language in 2021?

As things currently stand, candidates taking AS in 2021 will not be affected by lost time. However, the loss of further teaching time is possible and we would hope that Ofqual would have a contingency plan in place should there be a resurgence in the pandemic.

Q97. To what extent do you agree or disagree with the proposed assessment arrangements for A level English language in 2021?

Disagree

Q98. Do you have any comments on the proposed assessment arrangements for A level English language in 2021?

We think that proposed changes to the timing of the 2021 examinations series do not, on their own, provide sufficient compensation to candidates for lost teaching time. We should, additionally, like to see a reduction in the content of examination papers and believe that this could be done without adversely affecting students' ability to progress to degree-level study.

English literature

Q99. To what extent do you agree or disagree with the proposed assessment arrangements for GCSE English literature in 2021?

Disagree

Q100. Do you have any comments on the proposed assessment arrangements for GCSE English literature in 2021?

The decision to go ahead as usual, with no concessions for core subjects, is unfair to those students who have had little or no synchronous teaching/’catch up’ classes. There is a high degree of commonality across the GCSE specifications and adjustments could have been made uniformly across all four, without compromising the skills required to progress to KS5.
Content sampling would have been possible without undermining the integrity of the subject contents. The DfE has never, to my knowledge, supplied any subject-specific, intellectual rationale for why certain periods of literature are prescribed (or proscribed), so it’s hard to discern what, if anything, a student would lack if one or more of the subject content items were removed/optionalised.
Allowing the poetry anthology to be taken into the exam would have taken a great deal of pressure off students; I can see no justification for not allowing this adjustment.
Schools which choose to increase the English timetable allowance so as to maximise students’ performance in this double-weighted exam will risk over-loading students and turning them off the subject entirely. English Literature is not a subject amenable to cramming and, if the exam remains unchanged, then outcomes are likely to be superficial and formulaic – the result of learning which is hurried and exam-driven. This will inevitably impact on progression to A level.

Q101. To what extent do you agree or disagree with the proposed assessment arrangements for AS English literature in 2021?

Agree

Q102. Do you have any comments on the proposed assessment arrangements for AS English literature in 2021?

As things currently stand, candidates taking AS in 2021 will not be affected by lost time. However, the loss of further teaching time is possible and we would hope that Ofqual would have a contingency plan in place should there be a resurgence in the pandemic.

Q103. To what extent do you agree or disagree with the proposed assessment arrangements for A level English literature in 2021?

Disagree

Q104. Do you have any comments on the proposed assessment arrangements for A level English literature in 2021?

We think that proposed changes to the timing of the 2021 examinations series do not, on their own, provide sufficient compensation to candidates for lost teaching time. We should, additionally, like to see a reduction in the content of examination papers and believe that this could be done without adversely affecting students' ability to progress to degree-level study.

English language and literature

Q105. To what extent do you agree or disagree with the proposed assessment arrangements for AS English language and literature in 2021?

Agree

Q106. Do you have any comments on the proposed assessment arrangements for AS English language and literature in 2021?

As things currently stand, candidates taking AS in 2021 will not be affected by lost time. However, the loss of further teaching time is possible and we would hope that Ofqual would have a contingency plan in place should there be a resurgence in the pandemic.

Q107. To what extent do you agree or disagree with the proposed assessment arrangements for A level English language and literature in 2021?

Disagree

Q108. Do you have any comments on the proposed assessment arrangements for A level English language and literature in 2021?

We think that proposed changes to the timing of the 2021 examinations series do not, on their own, provide sufficient compensation to candidates for lost teaching time. We should, additionally, like to see a reduction in the content of examination papers and believe that this could be done without adversely affecting students' ability to progress to degree-level study.

Impact assessments

Q208. Are there other potential equality impacts that we have not explored? What are they?

We believe that there has been considerable inequality of opportunity for students during the period of school closures. While acknowledging the immense challenges that changing the format and/or contents of exams pose for those involved with assessment, awarding and regulation, the minor concessions made for the English qualifications fail to take into account the very considerable amount of face-to-face teaching time lost since schools closed. As the proposals stand, there is a serious risk to equality across centres, with some pupils having had sustained and regular synchronous teaching, and others having had little or no direct teacher contact. Inevitably, the centres in the most deprived areas of the country will suffer unduly and, given the high-stakes nature of English at GCSE, this is likely to inflict long-term damage on progression to the next educational level and thus to students’ life chances.

Q209. We would welcome your views on how any potential negative impacts on particular groups of students could be mitigated.

As previously stated in this response, we believe that changes to the timing of the 2021 exams series are insufficient on their own to mitigate the disadvantage to the group of students identified in our answer to Question 30. We believe that further work needs to be done to reduce the content of exam papers for English subjects for 2021. To leave them unchanged will only benefit the most fortunate.

Q210. Are there additional activities associated with changing the exam and assessment arrangements for students taking the qualifications in summer 2021 that we have not identified above?  What are they?

Nothing noted.

Q211. What additional costs do you expect you would incur if the proposed changes to the exam and assessment arrangements were introduced for summer 2021?

n/a

Q212. We would welcome your views on any suggestions for alternative approaches that could reduce burden and costs.

Nothing noted.

Feedback

We want to write clearly and effectively, putting the reader first. How easy to read did you find this consultation? (Please rate from 1 very hard to read to 5 very easy to read)

5

Do you have any comments or suggestions about the style of writing?

>

None noted.

Your details

Which nation or country are you based in?

England

Q213. How did you find out about this consultation?

Other (please specify):
Word of mouth

Is this the official response from your organisation or your own, personal response?

This is the official response from my organisation

Your details (official response)

Q215. Which of these options best describes your organisation?

Other representative or interest group

Your details (representative group)

Type of representative or interest group

Subject association or learned society

Confidentiality

Do you wish any part of your response to remain confidential?

No

This consultation was open from 1 July 2020 to 16 July 2020 and final decisions will be announced in August. You can read more about this consultation here: https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/proposed-changes-to-the-assessment-of-gcses-as-and-a-levels-in-2021.

 

Consultation outcome (UPDATED 04 August 2020)

You can read more about Ofqual's decisions on the Government website. We are pleased that Ofqual have decided to make some questions in GCSE English Literature optional, in order to mitigate the disadvantage for students who have had little or no synchronous teaching or 'catch-up' classes.

We invited views in the consultation on our proposal that there should be no change to the assessment arrangements in this subject (Questions 99 and 100). There was stronger disagreement (48%) than agreement (38%) with this proposal with respondents arguing for optionality in coverage of subject content, (for optional content and/or optional questions). Many respondents expressed significant concern about being able to cover all of the required subject content in the time available and highlighted the difficulties for students in trying to get to grips with complex literary texts remotely. Many teachers referred to the way that English literature and English language were often taught together and how a change to one would support the delivery of the other. The government has agreed that there can, for 2021 only, be a choice of topics on which students are required to answer questions in their exams. We have therefore decided to allow exam boards to change the way they assess GCSE English literature in summer 2021 so that centres will have the option to focus on particular texts. All students will be assessed on a play by Shakespeare2 and on 2 of the remaining 3 areas of content: poetry; 19th century novel; or fiction/drama from the British Isles from 1914.
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